For many of us, the Rock Creek Trail has been a vital part of our cycling life. It is a commuter route, a recreation destination and refreshing escape from the city that's still close to home. But as anyone who rides the Rock Creek Trail can tell you, it is not the best-kept trail in town.
Plans to resurface and improve the trail have been around for quite some time, but now we are finally seeing some forward progress. The National Park Service and the District Department of Transportation have restarted the Environmental Assessment process, which kicked off with a public meeting last night at the National Zoo.
"The purpose of [the rehabilitation of the trail] is to improve the safety and connectivity of the deteriorating Rock Creek Park multi-use trail system in order to enhance visitor use and experience within Rock Creek Park...resulting in: improved visitor safety and experience; protection of park resources; improved access to the Rock Creek Park multi-use trail system from other pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods; and more effective drainage and erosion control."
NPS and DDOT officials presented the various options under consideration and made themselves available to answer questions from community members. They broke the proposal into three distinct sections for the purposes of the Assessment: Rock Creek Trail, the Peirce Mill Trail Spur, and the Rose Park Trail. You can access the documents from the meeting here.
For Rock Creek Trail:
Alternative 1) No action
Alternative 2) Resurfacing of existing trail, including new connections and spot improvements
Alternative 3) Resurfacing and widening, including new connections and spot improvements
WABA endorses Alternative 3:
"In addition to spot improvements and new connections, the Rock Creek Park multi-use trail would be resurfaced and widened a minimum of 6 feet up to a maximum of 10 feet, depending on environmental constraints. The Piney Branch Parkway trail would be resurfaced to a varying width of 6-8 feet.
New connections to the Rock Creek Trail would be added at the following locations: Blagden Ave., Broad Branch Rd., Beach Dr., Piney Branch Pkwy. Trail, Arkansas Ave., Porter St. Ramp, P St., Rock Creek and Potomac Pkwy. Trail, and Rose Park Trail.
Spot improvements along the length of the trail would include: Minor trail realignments at curves and approaches, roadway crossing safety improvements, improved crossing at Beach Dr. bridge (south of Zoo tunnel), drainage and erosion control, and grade improvements."
For the Peirce Mill Trail Spur:
Option A: No action
Option B: 8-10 foot paved trail spur
WABA endorses Option B:
The current "8-10 foot wide 'social trail' [that] has been created by users along Rock Creek from Blagden Ave. to the Peirce Mill parking lot...would be resurfaced at its current location to a varying width of 8-10 feet."
For the Rose Park Trail
Option A: No action
Option B: 6 foot trail resurfacing, including improved connections
Option C: 8 foot trail resurfacing, including improved connections
WABA endorses Option C:
The Rose Park Trail "would be resurfaced at its current alignment to a width of 8 feet, including improved connections to P St., NW and M St., NW.
While these issues were not explicitly addressed by NPS or DDOT at the meeting, many of them were raised by community members, and WABA believes that they should be included in the project as it moves forward:
- The National Zoo area should remain passable 24 hours a day--either through improvements to the Zoo tunnel or around-the-clock access to the connector path
- Any trail detours during construction should be well-marked and easy to use; trail detour information should be readily available online before the detour goes into effect
- Trail maintenance--including snow removal--should be explicitly assigned to an agency, with contact information/issue reporting available online
- Bike parking needs and potential Capital Bikeshare integration should be evaluated
WABA is asking for your help and support in making sure the Rock Creek Trail is the best it can be!
Below, we have written a comment for cyclists to post in the National Park Service's comment form. Please open up this link in another browser tab or window. The copy the text of our comment and paste it in the box labeled "Question 1" on the form. If you would like to modify our comment or substitute your own, please feel free to do so.
All comments must be submitted by 1:59 AM EST on Monday, February 28th.
As an area bicyclist and supporter of Rock Creek Park, I want to ensure that the Rock Creek Trail is the best it can be. I support Alternative 3 for the Rock Creek Trail, Option B for the Peirce Mill Trail Spur, and Option C for the Rose Park Trail.
Additionally, I am requesting that NPS and DDOT consider opening the National Zoo area to bicyclists and pedestrians 24 hours a day, making any trail detours during construction well-marked and easy to use, making trail detour information readily available to commuters before detours go into effect, having trail maintenance--including snow removal--be explicitly assigned to an agency, and evaluating bike parking needs along the length of the project area.
Thank you to NPS and DDOT for their attention to this needed project and for involving the community in the planning and evaluation process.
Remember, all comments must be submitted by 1:59 AM EST on Monday, February 28th.